ICR doctoral students present research on remote working at Microsoft’s ‘New Future of Work’ symposium

This summer, Shili Xiong and Giang V. Pham, both doctoral students in the College of Media’s Institute of Communications Research, were invited to present at Microsoft’s “New Future of Work” virtual symposium. Their presentations examined various effects of remote working and mediated work, in which work is dependent on technology. 

Shili XiongXiong (MS ’15, advertising) presented “Managing attention and productivity in distracting mediated workspaces: a research path for multitasking in mediated environments,” which she collaborated on with Brittany Duff, associate professor of advertising. 

Their paper proposes the possible advantages of “strategic distraction” on managing attention and engagement in the workplace. They also seek to develop new measures that evaluate remote work productivity by rethinking the cause, process, and outcomes of multitasking.

“The rapid shift to remote working environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing people to work in a mediated workspace that causes (in)attention and productivity issues,” read Xiong and Duff’s research abstract. “Previous attention research mainly revealed that divided attention and simultaneously conducting multiple tasks are cognitively harmful to task performance.”

Giang PhamPham (MS ’17, advertising) presented “ Overly Immersed: Understanding the Two Sides of Flow and their Implications for Mediated Work Environments.” In her research, Pham advocates the importance of recognizing flow—what people experience when fully focusing on an activity—as a source of both positive and negative outcomes. The potential downside of flow, she argues, is that “it could facilitate one activity at the cost of others by diverting people’s time and mental resources away from these tasks.” Pham also seeks to determine which factors can cause workflow to negatively or positively impact productivity.

“The shift to remote work due to COVID-19 has given people more responsibility in terms of holding themselves accountable than what they have in the interpersonal environment,” read Pham’s research abstract. “With work being fully mediated, the ability to keep up with—and switch between—tasks has become crucial, and an over engagement due to flow in one task could easily impede this ability and hinder performance.” 

—Kimberly Belser, Communications and Marketing Intern